Thursday, August 13, 2015

“Mistress America”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a sneak preview of the new comedy “Mistress America” at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center; it stars Greta Gerwig who co-wrote the screenplay with director Noah Baumbach.


When a college student meets her stepsister-to-be, she is impressed at her nonconformist behavior – but when the woman suspects the student of betraying her, will the relationship be permanently ruined?


Tracy (Lola Kirke) is struggling through her freshman year in college – struggling to keep her grades up and struggling to make friends.  Just as she suspects there may be a budding romance with Tony (Matthew Shear), he winds up getting a girlfriend.  But Tracy has bigger plans:  she aspires to a career as a writer.  To this end, she is constantly writing and submitting material to Mobius, her school’s highly regarded literary periodical.  Distracting Tracy from both her schoolwork and personal life is that her mother (Kathryn Erbe) is remarrying.  With an impending wedding, Tracy decides to reach out to Brooke (Gerwig), the 30 year old woman who will soon be her stepsister.

From the moment Tracy first meets Brooke in Times Square, she is awestruck by this self-proclaimed autodidact who never attended college.  Her entrepreneurial spirit and devil-may-care attitude cut an impressive figure for this impressionable young woman.  Together, these two women spend the evening painting the town red; they hang out at bars, attend parties and meet new people before calling it quits with Tracy crashing at Brooke’s place.  Upon awakening the next morning, Tracy realizes that not only is she going to like having Brooke as a stepsister, but she may have also found herself a new heroine as well. 

As it turns out, Tracy may have found Brooke to be an inspiration for her writing, too.  She soon composes a short story which is her latest submission to Mobius; in it, the protagonist bears a striking resemblance to Brooke.  When Brooke accidentally learns of this abridged roman-a-clef, she is both hurt and insulted; not only is the main character portrayed in what she believes to be an unattractive fashion, but also, she feels that Tracy has used her purely for the sole purpose of advancing her standing.  With Tracy now on the outs with Brooke, can she repair their relationship before their respective parents wed or will they remain enemies forever? 


Whether Noah Baumbach sees comparisons between himself and Woody Allen as a compliment or an albatross may never be fully knowable, however, the similarities are striking.  Both are filmmakers with an exceptional string of good movies to their credit and they excel at comedy; both have or had a girlfriend who served double-duty as a muse (for Baumbach, it’s Gerwig while Allen had Diane Keaton).  Both make very New York films.  But one thing Baumbach has that Allen doesn’t is a keen eye and ear for crafting stories that are very much tuned to a modern 21st century audience. 

If you’re looking for a fun screwball comedy to keep you cool on these dwindling hot summer days, you won’t do much better than “Mistress America”; it is packed with so many hilariously funny lines, quoting only one would be an unforgiveable spoiler.  In Brooke, Gerwig and Baumbach have succeeded in creating a character who is simultaneously pretentious and vacuous in addition to being laughable in her boorishness.  Ultimately, this woman is confronted with recognizing herself as being the loser that she truly is, despite the hapless façade she chooses to display publicly. 

Following the screening, both Gerwig and Baumbach were interviewed.  Gerwig said that while she tries to keep the performing and writing aspects separate when she’s developing a character, she admitted that inevitably, one winds up informing the other.  As far as the character of Tracy is concerned, Gerwig claimed that she based much of it on herself when she was going to college at Barnard, where she originally wanted to become a dancer, not an actress.  Baumbach said that he prefers to try to keep the budget for his movies approximately the same; while this obviously imposes certain limitations on him, he feels that it also provides certain freedom as well (such as spending more time on specific shots). 


Mistress America (2015) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!